Travel and Reentry
If the exchange visitor wishes to travel to his or her country of citizenship or permanent residence, a valid passport or travel document should ensure entry. Visas may be necessary for travel to a third country. Those wishing to visit third countries should contact the consulate or embassy of the country to be visited to determine what documents are necessary for entry.
- A valid passport (unless exempt from passport requirement)
- A valid visa (unless exempt from the visa requirement or eligible for automatic revalidation of visa after a trip of 30 days or less to contiguous territory
- A valid Form DS-2019, signed for re-entry by the RO/ARO
What to Expect upon Arrival at a U.S. Port of Entry
For information on what to expect while entering the United State, please visit the U.S Immigration and Customs Enforcement Fact Sheet.
I-94 Not Collected upon Departure
If you left the United States and your Arrival/Departure Card (Form I-94 or I-94W) was not collected by the airline or border control, you need to return it to the United States government. Please keep in mind that as of May 1, 2013 U.S. Customs and Border Protection will begin a new system for issuing I-94. Please see the following link for additional information: Arrival/Departure Record Process Changes for Foreign Visitors Arriving Via Air or Sea.
Important: If you lose your departure record or forget to turn it in when departing the United States, your file will remain open with USCIS (United States Citizenship and Immigration Services) and CBP (Customs and Border Protection). Once you have exceeded the amount of days you were legally admitted to stay in the United States, you will be classified as an "overstay". This may lead to a serious problem next time you try to enter the United States including denial of entry and/or cancellation of any United States visa you may have. If you were to be deported, the cost of obtaining a return ticket must be paid by the individual.
It is the visitor's responsibility to proof that he or she departed the United States within the amount of days indicated he or she was admitted to stay. There are specific procedures to follow whether you lost or misplaced your Form I-94/I-94W departure record while in the United States, or you forgot to turn it in before departing the United States.
For more information, please view Customs and Border Protection website.
Travel to Canada or Mexico
Since Mexico and Canada share land borders with the United States, many students and advisers may not think of inquiring about entry requirements far in advance. Mexico and Canada have distinct entry requirements, which must be investigated by F-1 students and their families just like any other country.
The lack of a valid Form I-20 will not prevent the student's departure from the United States; it may, however, prevent the student from entering Canada or Mexico. Moreover, even a duplicate Form I-20, which lacks the expected admission stamps, may be insufficient for the student to obtain entry to Canada or Mexico.
Under certain circumstances, an F nonimmigrant with an expired visa may re-enter the United States as though the visa were still valid, provided that the student traveled only to Canada, Mexico, or the adjacent Caribbean islands for 30 days or less. This benefit also extends to F nonimmigrants who have changed their status to F in the United States, and whose visa is in the category in which they entered the United States.
Reentry After an Absence of More Than 5 Months
An absence from the United States of 5 months or more, where the student was not participating full-time in study abroad or graduate research abroad, is considered a non-temporary absence. If a student wishes to return to the United States to resume studies or begin new studies, a new SEVIS record will have to be created, a new I-20 would have to be issued from the new SEVIS record, and the SEVIS I-901 fee would have to be paid. In this case, the student is considered an initial student, and the clock for eligibility for F-1 benefits such as practical training and off-campus work authorization is reset.
Temporary 30-day Admission with Form I-515A
If a J-1 exchange visitor appears at a port of entry in good faith without a properly completed or endorsed Form DS-2019, but otherwise appears eligible for admission as a J-1 exchange visitor, the inspecting officer may grant a temporary 30-day admission by issuing Form I-515A (Notice to Student or Exchange Visitor).
Although an exchange visitor who has received Form I-515A is admitted in J-1 status, the admission is for only a 30-day period, not for duration of status (D/S). To convert the admission to D/S, the exchange visitor must submit certain documents to SEVP, before the 30-day expiration date recorded on Form I-94; those documents will be listed on the I-515 A form.
For additional information, please view the I-515 A Tool Kit on U.S. Immigration and Customs Protection website.